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Transcriptions and song notes by michael oliver-goodwin

Food Prices  

Relator won the calypso crown in 1980 for this clever (and brilliantly rhymed) topical calypso. "At the time people were complaining a lot about things at the supermarket," he remembers. "One lady say, 'Imagine, 14 ounces of saltfish is $3.69, not even a pound!' I took that line just as was and put it into the calypso. There are so many puns in 'Food Prices.' 'If you brave to still go in the market, I could tell yuh that yuh only takin' basket.' Now, when you 'give a fella a basket' you tell him go steal Miss Josephine hat—but in reality Miss Josephine will have a big belt waiting for your ass if you do anything like that. So if you 'give someone basket' you're prompting them to do something both foolish and dangerous."


A friend of mine come an' tell me about two months ago
To bring back de old-time calypso
He said, 'Well, Relator, people keep askin' everywhere
To bring back a old-time ray-minor?' [1]
Ah said is a good idea without a doubt
But what the France [2] yuh want me to sing about
Is den he declare
'Sing 'bout the price of food an' how t'ings so dear'

Ochroes sellin' five dollars for five
Six dollars for celery, four dollar for sive
Dey raise currants, and dey raise raisin
Egg is 12 and 14 dollars now a dozen
Eddoes is now five dollars my frien'
And is 10.25 a pound now for melongene
A lime [3] long time was ol' talk and fun
But now a lime is 1.25 for one

Ah said, 'Well partner everything dat you just said was true
Money today don' have no value'
An' if you argue people goin' to say dat you're funny
An' tell you how you can't eat de money
Is true yuh can't push de money down yuh throat
But people still not gettin' dey money's worth
An' the vendors an' dem so fierce
Dey does raise de price when something get scarce

Four dollars a bunch of crestle
Packchoy is 12.50 a bundle
11.50 now for potato
Some places is 12 dollars for tomato
Callaloo bush 10.50 in town
An' carrots sellin' now 12 dollars a pound
So if yuh brave to still go in de market
Ah could tell yuh dat yuh only takin' basket [4]

Now when you have to compare all these prices of foodstuff
Salaries today are not enough
You notice up to now ah have not mentioned de grocery
Dat is more headache and a fresh setta money
Apart from dat is light bill and rent to pay
God alone know how people are makin' out today
I could tell yuh den
People catchin' dey aunt,[5] uncle and nenen [6]

30 dollars now a pound for shark
Carite is 28, dat ent no skylark [7]
25 dollars for redfish, dat is advantage
Some places is ten dollars dey want for cabbage
Ripe fig 6.50, green fig 45
Poor people only strugglin' to survive
Imagine cauliflower six dollars a head
So is cheaper to buy marijuana instead

Well ah bound to offer some solution before I conclude
Get a kitchen garden an' plant yuh own food
But then again everybody don't have dey own backyard
So government mus' control prices in Trinidad
Subsidize farmers and increase salaries
An' in a case like dat we bound to get ah ease
An' clamp down on dis racket
About the scarcity of goods and de black market

A pound of garlic is now 8.15
Six dollars a pound for cristofine [8] 
Pumpkin is 8.50 if you please
An' in de shell is 16 dollars for pigeon peas
14 ounces of saltfish is 12.69
Is like pushin' de umbrella up from behind
A chicken is 30 dollars, and 2.50 to pluck
So is cheaper to buy feed and raise yuh own cock

 

Footnotes

1 - Originally, old-time calypsos were sung in minor keys. Ray (or re) minor is from solfegio—do, re, mi, and so on.

2 - a polite (and traditional) substitute for the expected f-word curse in Trinidad

3 - In Trinidad, a lime is a friendly gathering or party.

4 - takin' basket = doing something both dangerous and foolish

5 - The joke here is that Relator starts to say "catch their ass," and substitutes a harmless phrase instead.

6 - nenen = godmother.

7 - skylark = joke

8 - merliton, or cho cho


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